Know Your Bill of Rights! (Free Preview)


Published on

This book helps you easily reach a deep understanding of the Bill of Rights by walking you through each amendment, clarifying the precise definitions of key words; providing the historical context you need to fully grasp and spirit and importance of the amendments; sharing powerfully insightful quotes on each amendment, straight from the Founders and their peers; supplying you with an extensive glossary of terms so you never get lost in a dictionary or encyclopedia trying to understand what you're reading; and more.

Visit to learn more!

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Know Your Bill of Rights! (Free Preview)

  1. 1. Copyright © 2012 Oculus Publishers, Inc.All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in anymanner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the useof brief quotations in a book review. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book viathe Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal andpunishable by law.Please purchase only authorized electronic editions of this book and don’t participate in orencourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy foreach person you share it with, or ask them to buy their own copies. This was hard work for theauthor and he appreciates it.Cover Designed by: Andy Huff and Kiersten LiefPublished by: Oculus Publishers, Inc.www.oculuspublishers.comVisit the author’s
  2. 2. DedicationThis book is dedicated to the brave, tough-minded patriots of the past and present who havesounded the alarm against the dangers of government oppression of the individual, and whohave risked lives and fortunes to uphold their beliefs that government is but an instrument ofthe people, its powers forever subordinate to their rights as human beings.
  3. 3. 1 Why Should You Buy This Book?“In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.” – Benjamin FranklinThere is no record of history as bloody and battered as that of the power to rule. Countlessmillions have been marched to their graves during wars fought over the whims of and in theinterests of lone individuals. Countless millions more have suffered lives of wretched,inescapable slavery simply because they were born to the wrong classes. Entire empires, builtby the brilliance and diligence of generations, have crumbled in the hands of despotic kingswith no more competence or intelligence than the lowliest beggar.For many centuries, Man was locked in a social mechanism whereby an elite few arbitrarilywielded power, swinging the masses to and fro with little or no recognition or respect for thedivine inspiration alight in us all. During Man’s trudge through the dystopian Dark Ages,however, a radical idea emerged and, like a tale of Atlantis, fired imaginations to dream of aworld never before known.This simple concept was the first breath of what would become the greatest ideologicaltransformation in history: all human beings, regardless of gender, status, wealth, and religion,are born equally free and with the right to the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property and theright to the pursuit of happiness. These natural rights are born with us, exist within us, andcannot be taken from us by any human power without taking our lives. Moreover, these rightsformed fundamental law to which all man-made systems of domination or governance weresubordinate.This philosophy was a golden ray of light that punctured the gloom of past tyrannies, and it wasthe substance of groundbreaking recognitions of personal liberties such as the Magna Carta,the writ of habeas corpus, the Petition of Right, the Northwest Ordinance, and others.As history would have it, the American colonists would be the people to carry this ideology toits full fruition. “America was opened,” Emerson wrote, “after the feudal mischief was spent,
  4. 4. and so the people made a good start. We began well. No inquisitions here, no kings, no nobles,no dominant church. Here heresy has lost its terrors.”Early on, American colonists embraced the philosophy that all men are by nature equally freeand independent and have certain inherent rights that transcend human authorities. They alsobecame accustomed to the idea that government only existed by the consent of the people,that the people created the government, and that the people have the right to change thegovernment if it fails to serve admirably.Aware of centuries of abuse by European monarchies and nobles, Americans also knew thatwithout regular, fair procedures of law, there was no liberty. Fresh in their minds were the pasthorrors of vicious, arbitrary procedures that had been used to victimize religious and politicalminorities. History had proven that one’s home could not be his castle or his property be hisown, nor could his right to express his opinion or to worship his God be secure, if he could besearched, arrested, tried, and imprisoned in unpredictable ways, with no recourse. Corruptauthorities used bills of attainder to declare political undesirables guilty and sentence them todeath without trial by jury. Ex post facto laws were notoriously unfair, for they made criminalany conduct that was not a crime in the past a punishable offense, retroactively increased thepenalty for a crime, or changed the rules of evidence to obtain a conviction despite a pastacquittal.Visionaries such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison saw that independence from Britainoffered the American people a chance to reclaim rights regarded as supreme laws of nature andset up a government for themselves, created and limited by a supreme law that was paramountin all ways to it, yet unalterable by it.Thus was born a new understanding of what a constitution was: cardinal law that would serveas the foundation of government, that would limit all branches of government, and that wasunalterable by legislative authority. This differed greatly from the great English libertydocuments, which limited only the crown but not the legislative power in any way (allowingParliament to legalize any form of tyranny it pleased).Madison made his intention of a new type of constitution clear at the ConstitutionalConvention, where he declared that the delegates had assembled to frame “a compact bywhich an authority was created paramount to the parties, and making laws for the governmentof them.” James Wilson had earlier established his position that “all government ought to beinstituted…to enable the individuals who compose [the commonwealth] to enjoy their naturalrights.”The first draft of the U.S. Constitution was completed in 1787, but it lacked a vital component: apositive statement of inalienable rights guaranteed to all citizens of the nation. Jefferson stated
  5. 5. this powerfully in a letter to John Adams, writing, “Let me add that a bill of rights is what thepeople are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what nojust government should refuse, or rest on inference.” Despite arguments that a Bill of Rightswas unnecessary as the Constitution gave government no power to infringe on such rights,Jefferson worried that, without such a declaration, legislative tyranny would be an imminentdanger for the decades and centuries to come and that executive tyranny would follow. After two years of controversy and debate, the triumph of individual liberty againstgovernment power, one of history’s noblest themes, was finally epitomized in the American Billof Rights—the inviolable laws to be added to the Constitution that guarded against abuse of“the great rights of mankind,” as Madison put it.As you will soon see, the Bill of Rights is a triumphant proclamation of sacred truths upon whichfreedom depends and a heroic defense of the individual against the majority, subject as it is todemagoguery and deception.By the end of this book, you will not only fully understand and appreciate the liberties theFramers guaranteed you, your family, your friends, and society, but you will see how theseliberties are the foundation of the lifestyle you currently enjoy. You will also glimpse the miseryof life without them—a nightmare that our Founders dared to believe they could prevent fromever happening again.Before we move on, however, I want to interject a solemn caveat. The Framers tended to beskeptical about the effectiveness of “parchment barriers” against “overbearing majorities,” asMadison wrote. He had seen many violations of personal liberties in every state despite theirsupposed legal protections. So, you may wonder, how can a piece of paper come to your aidwhen it is needed most? The answer is, of course, that no scrap of parchment can float in andsave the day. What good, you may wonder, is it for you—a mere individual—to understand anddefend something like the Bill of Rights?Well, just as we saw in the noble birth of this nation, enough people of the same mind andwillingness to defy tyranny can overcome any opposition and secure their future. Richard HenryLee and James Madison rightly observed that mere paper barriers might fail, but a Bill of Rightswould serve as effective education of the people because it taught truths of freedom that mustremain inviolate for there to be any freedom at all.But what if the people were not given this education? What if they were ignorant of andindifferent to their natural rights? How would they guard against infringements or even knowwhat constitutes a violation? They would not, and they would be, by definition, willing slaves.Who would guard their freedoms for them, though? Principled, admirable officials ofgovernment, you might correctly assume. But what happens when they are gone—who will
  6. 6. replace them at the flagpole and keep it sturdy and true? With no resolute guardians to risefrom successive generations, the flag will inevitably topple, and with it the greatest socialevolution in mankind’s history.Jefferson stated this clearly: “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…. They are theonly sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”A cursory review of the chronicles of history shows that every civilization, empire, and nationhas suffered or died from power accumulating in the wrong hands. Lord Acton famously wrotethat “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and human nature,unfortunately, is just as predictable today as it was then. “God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it,”said Daniel Webster. The Founders were possessed of incredible compassion, insight, andforethought, but they are no longer here to protect us. Their legacy is not inscribed papers buta magnificent vision of a free, prosperous nation whose people, as Patrick Henry boldlydeclared, value liberty over all—even their lives. That vision must continue, and we are the onlyones who can, individual by individual, give it light and strength.True patriotism is belief in the ideals that this nation was founded upon; it is not ignorance ofthem and unthinking, endless devotion to government. So never forget the Founders’ messagethat we the people are governed only by our consent, that we create government, and that wehave the right to change government if it exceeds its limitations. Do not take your freedoms forgranted lest they slowly erode until, like an ancient parchment, they crumble at the slightestprovocation.Become educated, encourage others to follow, and together, despite our divergent politicalleanings, we can stand united as human beings who recognize and respect each other’s rightsto enjoy life and liberty, to acquire and possess property, and to pursue and obtain happinessand safety.
  7. 7. 2 The Hidden Barrier to Understanding Your Constitutional Rights “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” – SocratesI have a fundamental problem with many constitutional books and texts available today: theysimply interpret the Constitution for you. That is, they feed you other people’s understandingsand opinions of the wordings found in the Constitution instead of helping you understand itexactly as the Framers wrote it.This is a dangerous approach as, like a never-ending game of Chinese whispers, errorsaccumulate as messages are relayed from person to person. And worse, violations ofconstitutional freedoms or restrictions, if not guarded against, can slowly become acceptablethrough common- law precedents.I strongly believe that the integrity of the rights granted to us by the Bill of Rights reliescompletely on us not only being informed about this document and willing to uphold it but alsofully understanding the literal and historical significance of each clause.So, the question is, how can you gain a full and proper understanding of something like the Billof Rights without having it explained and interpreted for you? Well, you start with the biggest,hidden barrier to understanding that almost everyone completely overlooks: words.Simply put, if you have misunderstandings about the words used to communicate specificconcepts, you will not duplicate the communication exactly—you will reach your own distortedinterpretation. If I were to tell you that the children had to leave at crepuscule, you mightwonder what I am talking about (unless you understand the word “crepuscule”). “Crepuscule”simply means the time of the day when the sun is just below the horizon, especially the periodbetween sunset and dark. The sentence now makes sense, doesn’t it?In school, many of us were taught to simply guess at the meanings of words by looking at thesurrounding context. This, of course, is a very unreliable method of study, as the person writing
  8. 8. the text had a specific concept to communicate and chose the words based on specificunderstandings.If you want to receive the information in the same light, you must share the sameunderstanding of the words used to convey it, not come to subjective understandings based onwhat you think the words might mean.Author Philip Dick once wrote, “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is themanipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the peoplewho must use the words.” This is especially relevant to constitutional matters. An insidious wayto pervert the Constitution and Bill of Rights is to pervert or obscure, whether intentionally orotherwise, the meaning of the words the Framers carefully chose. Failing to comprehend theoriginal meaning of these documents guarantees that the original message will be lost intranslation and maybe one day even deemed outmoded and irrelevant in modern society.This is actually a familiar concept in jurisprudence, aligning with the rule of construction, whichholds that if a plain meaning of a law exists, it should be followed. As Justice Joseph Story said,“The first and fundamental rule in the interpretation of all instruments is, to construe themaccording to the sense of the terms, and intention of the parties.” If a plain meaning does notexist, the reader must construe the language of the text so as not to contradict the documentat any point, and the reader must seek meaning in its purposes or in the principles that itembodies as understood from “its nature and objects, its scope and design.”To preserve the original meaning and application of the Bill of Rights, this book will take aunique approach. It will not teach you my interpretation of the Bill of Rights or anyone else’s forthat matter. It will help you reach your own understanding by carefully defining key words, byhaving you study the amendments, by providing historical context and quotes from theFramers, and by challenging you with assignments that consult your understanding.“Do not separate text from historical background,” admonished James Madison. “If you do, youwill have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted,bastardized form of illegitimate government.”As you will see, much emphasis in this book is put on the precise meaning of the words usedthroughout the bill, as a misunderstood word can lead to a misunderstood sentence, which canlead to a misunderstood paragraph, which can lead to a misunderstood page, and so on.To aid in your study, a glossary has been included in the back of this book. It containsexplanations of historical figures and events and definitions of words as they are used in thisbook. Further definitions can be found in a dictionary.
  9. 9. The definitions of words given in each chapter and in the glossary are taken directly from one ormore of the following dictionaries: Oxford American Dictionary; Encarta World EnglishDictionary; Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary; American Heritage Dictionary of the EnglishLanguage; Random House Unabridged Dictionary; Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner’s EnglishDictionary; Cambridge International Dictionary of English; Webster’s 1828 Dictionary; Webster’sRevised Unabridged 1913 Edition; Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition; and others.While the historical information shared in this book was culled from various sources andauthors, my primary source was the late Leonard W. Levy, a distinguished historian, professor,and Pulitzer Prize–winning author. He deserves special recognition for his contributions to thefield, and if you want to learn even more of the history of the Bill of Rights, I highly recommendLevy’s Origins of the Bill of Rights, a principled, learned, and compelling treatise on the subject.By the end of this book, you are going to understand your rights like never before and probablycome to greatly admire the visionary, noble intentions of the Founders of this nation and theirdream of a free society in which you have the right to express yourself, pursue your dreams,and achieve happiness.
  10. 10. 3 The Foundations of Our GovernmentHow many people can give a clear, concise definition of “constitution?” What about “Senate” or“House of Representatives” or “Congress?”As you probably imagine, not very many people can. And that’s okay—most of us were nevertaught clear meanings of these words while in school.So before we dive into each of your constitutional rights, let’s go over a fairly short list of keyconcepts that our entire governmental system was built on.Believe it or not, by the end of this chapter you’ll know more about our constitution and Bill ofRights than most citizens. THE KEY WORDS OF OUR GOVERNMENTLaw1. A system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the use of penalties.2. A rule of conduct or procedure as a part of such a system, enforceable by an authority.FreedomThe ability to act, speak or think as one wants without resistance or restraint.RightA legal freedom to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.LegislatureA group of persons, usually elected, that have the authority to make, change and cancel laws.Draft
  11. 11. The first form of any writing, which may be changed.BillA draft of a proposed law presented to a legislature, but not yet passed and made law.GovernTo direct and control, either by established laws or individual judgments.PrincipleA fundamental idea or belief.ConstitutionA document that outlines the basic laws, rules, and principles by which a country ororganization is governed.Authority1. Legal power or a right to command or to act.2. A person or group of persons that are given the power to command or control, especially to enforce the law.ArbitraryBased on the decision of a judge or court rather than in accordance with any rule or lawStateA usually large group of people with their own government, not ruled by any other country; anation.SocietyAn organized group of people united either for a temporary or permanent purpose, with lawsand traditions that control how they behave toward one another.GovernmentThe group of persons that direct the actions of societies and states according to the establishedconstitution and laws or by arbitrary decisions.Clause
  12. 12. A part of a contract, agreement, will, or other writing.ArticleA clause or paragraph of a legal document or agreement, typically one outlining a single rule orlaw.AmendmentAn article added to the US Constitution.LegislativeInvolved in the writing and passing of laws.SenateOne of the two elected legislative bodies of the United States, comprised of 100 members (2from each state).House of RepresentativesOne of the two elected legislative bodies of the United States, comprised of 435 members with6 additional members that cant vote.NOTE:The number of representatives for each state is determined by the population of the states(larger population means more representatives in the House).CongressThe legislative body of the United States, comprised of the Senate and the House ofRepresentatives.NOTE:For a bill to be passed and made law, it must be approved by a majority vote in both the Houseand the Senate, and the must be approved by the President. If the President rejects a bill, theSenate and House can override him with a two-thirds vote in favor, and the bill becomes law.Additionally, the Senate and House have different exclusive powers. For example, only theSenate can approve treaties (agreements to international laws), while only the House caninitiate spending bills and move to impeach people holding governmental positions.
  13. 13. SUMMARYAs you can now imagine, trying to understand the Bill of Rights without first knowing theprecise meanings of these key words is like trying to navigate a boat using the stars when youdon’t even know what a constellation is.Now, in the next chapter, we’re going to take an in-depth look at your freedom of speech. Haveyou wondered what types of speech does the First Amendment protect and how does it applyto modern society?Well, you’ll soon know with confidence what “freedom of speech” really means and howhistory has proven it as absolutely inviolable right if we are to live free.
  14. 14. 4 The Cornerstone of Your Rights: The First Amendment “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.” –Benjamin FranklinThe First Amendment is widely considered one of our most important constitutional rights.Everyone can come to a basic understanding of what the words “freedom of speech” mean.However, most people have trouble understanding it in the context of today’s society, anddon’t know the history behind this amendment and how grim life could get if this right wereabridged or lost.Many people are also unaware of the two other vital freedoms that this amendment gives us:freedom of the press and freedom of religion. The horrors of history along these lines areequally eye-opening and prove conclusively why these rights must be maintained.In this chapter, we’re going to first look at the meanings of the key words of the FirstAmendment, then the amendment itself, and then some of the historical context that theFounders were cognizant of when framing this invaluable right.I recommend that you read over these key words and ensure you understand each, and thenrefer back as needed when reading the amendment itself until the entire clause is clear to you. THE KEY WORDS OF THE FIRST AMENDMENTEstablishmentThe recognition of a church by law as the official church of a nation or state and supported bycivil authority.
  15. 15. ReligionA set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially whenconsidered as the creation of a superhuman entity or entities, usually involving systems ofprocedures and actions and often containing agreements as to what is right and wrongconduct.ExerciseTo put something into action or use.AbridgeTo reduce or lessen in duration, extent or range, authority, etc.; to diminish.SpeechAny declaration of thoughts, whether by words or other means.CensorshipThe suppression of all or a part of something considered offensive or unacceptable.Freedom of the pressThe right to publish and distribute broadly information, thoughts and opinions without restraintor censorship.PetitionTo ask some favor, right, or other benefit from a person or group of persons in authority orpower by submitting a formal, written request, often containing the names of people makingthe request.RedressThe setting right of what is wrong, often by giving something considered equal to the loss,injury, suffering, lack, etc.GrievanceA wrong considered as a valid reason for complaint, or something believed to cause pain,worry, sorrow, etc.
  16. 16. THE BILL OF RIGHTS THE FIRST AMENDMENTCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the freeexercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the peoplepeaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. THE STORY BEHIND THE FIRST AMENDMENT THE ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSEThere has been much debate as to how one should interpret the establishment clause of theFirst Amendment. Does it dictate a separation of church and state, or does it merely preventthe establishment of a national religion? Does it allow government aid to religion? Let’s look atthe history behind this clause to gain insight into it.Establishments of religion summon historical memories of religious persecution. In times past,an establishment of religion was a legal union between a state and a particular church thatbenefited from many privileges not granted to other churches or to those people who did notparticipate in a church or did not believe in the accepted faith. Establishments of religion incertain American colonies before the Revolution meant compulsory attendance to religiousservices, public teaching of only the approved church’s creed, marriage only legally performableby its clergy, stipends from public taxes paid only to its clergymen, and other various civildisabilities such as exclusion from universities and disqualification for civil, military, or religiousoffice.After the Revolution, exclusive establishments of religion in place from the colonial periodcrumbled. States that never had establishments renewed their protections against them. Otherstates ruled that religion was to rely on private, voluntary support. Nowhere in America after1776 did an establishment of religion restrict itself to a single church or system of publicassistance of one denomination alone. Only six states continued to provide public support toreligion, and they were careful to ensure their establishments included many sects. Otherstates, such as Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia, banned public taxing andsupport for religion, making it purely private and voluntary.
  17. 17. With the First Amendment, the Framers intended to prevent religious inequality andrestrictions of the free exercise of religious conscience, and that rightly included a prohibitionof government establishing a national religion. James Madison stated that the “great object” ofthe Bill of Rights was to “limit and qualify the powers of Government” to prevent legislation insuch prohibited areas as religion. “There is no shadow of right in the general government tointermeddle with religion,” he wrote. He even opposed the inclusion of ministers in a list ofoccupations to be covered in the first census bill. He said that “the general government isproscribed from interfering, in any manner whatever in matters respecting religion; and it maybe thought to do so in ascertaining who, and who are not ministers of the gospel.”When Madison introduced his amendments, the clauses on religion explained that no one’sliberties should be abridged “on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any nationalreligion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or onany pretext, infringed.”New Hampshire, the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, proposed a concise, clear wording ofthe matter: “Congress shall make no laws touching Religion, or to infringe the rights ofConscience.” Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island also recommended anamendment on the subject. Virginia stated that “no particular religious sect or society ought tobe favored or established, by law, in preference to others,” and North Carolina and RhodeIsland copied this verbatim while New York expressed the same idea.In no way did the language of such proposed amendments imply that Congress should have thepower to favor religion so long as no one group or denomination was not preferred to others.Patrick Henry and his followers, who were responsible for the language of the amendment,were firmly against augmenting the powers of Congress; they were against the federalgovernment having any authority over religious matters. In keeping with this sentiment,Virginia had defeated a proposal in 1784 that would have imposed a state tax on the people forthe benefit of religion, distributing each person’s money to the Christian church of his choice—a fought Madison led not because it referred too narrowly to Christianity, but because heopposed any kind of establishment of religion, whether for Christianity, Hinduism, Islam,Judaism, or any other.In a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802, Jefferson wrote, “I contemplate withsovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that theirlegislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the freeexercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” Madison sharedJefferson’s beliefs on the matter. Madison spoke of a “perfect separation” and believed that“religion and Government will exist in greater purity, without…the aid of Government.”
  18. 18. Madison’s own wording of the amendment he proposed to the House read like this: “Noreligion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.” TheHouse debated the recommendation and there was disagreement about how to best word it soit would satisfy the popular demands for the forbiddance of an establishment of religion andguarantee of religious liberty. Samuel Livermore recommended that “Congress shall make nolaws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.” When this was proposed to theHouse, Fisher Ames motioned for it to read “Congress shall make no law establishing religion,or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.” Livermore’swording was accepted and proposed to the Senate.Six days later, the Senate substituted for the House version one that read “Congress shall makeno law establishing articles of faith or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise ofreligion.” The House refused to accept this version, and resolution required a joint committeeof three members from each branch, including four influential Framers (Madison, RogerSherman, Oliver Ellsworth, and William Paterson). These legislators drafted the clause we nowknow as the First Amendment, and both the House and Senate adopted it and recommended itto the states for ratification. FREEDOM OF THE PRESSSir William Blackstone wrote that the liberty of the press “is indeed essential to the nature of afree state.” Madison described freedom of the press as one of the “choicest” of the “greatrights of mankind.” But how far should such freedom reach? Is all speech covered by freespeech? Did the Framers intend that speakers should be free to incite violence directly againstthe government? Did they believe that knowingly spreading false, malicious, and damagingstatements against others or the government is protected conduct? If the Framers did notintend for all speech, without exception, to be legally acceptable, what demarks the line ofspeech that is constitutionally protected and speech that is not? Let’s look to history for theanswers…Nearly two months after the Constitutional Convention began, Charles Pinckney of SouthCarolina proposed various rights for inclusion that would form a partial bill of rights. One ofthem stated that the liberty of the press should be “inviolably preserved.” The Conventionadopted two of his propositions but passed over the rest, including one guaranteeing liberty ofthe press. On September 12, 1787, as the Constitutional Convention was coming to a close, amotion to include a bill of rights was defeated. A couple days later, Pinckney again proposed afree press clause. Sherman reasoned that it was unnecessary as “the power of Congress does
  19. 19. not extend to the Press.” Three days later, the Convention adjourned, and so began misgivingsabout a Constitution that guaranteed some rights but omitted most.Throughout the emerging nation, freedom of the press became a topic of heated debate, andthere was a growing demand for its constitutional protection, but there was not yet aconsensus as to what it meant, it’s what its scope should be, and whether any circumstanceswould justify restrictions.The prevailing thought among legislatures and judiciaries at the time was reflected in stateconstitutions and common law. Many state constitutions protected liberty of the press, but theunderstanding was that the government was only to place no prior restraints upon it: peoplecould publish anything they pleased, but they might be criminally convicted for defaming thegovernment. Such convictions established the common law. Chief Justice Thomas McKean feltthis was an accurate and appropriate application of Blackstone’s declaration that publishing“bad sentiments destructive of the needs of society is the crime which society corrects.”In a 1789 essay, Ben Franklin called for the use of cudgels to break the heads of those whowould use the press for libel. William Livingston had declared in an essay that anyone whopublished “any Thing injurious to his Country” should be convicted for “high Treason againstthe State.” Sherman framed a bill of rights in 1789 that protected one’s right to express hissentiments “with decency,” a phrasing that was understood at the time to exclude libels—personal, obscene, blasphemous, or seditious. James Wilson supported truth as a defense butotherwise agreed. Madison, in the times preceding the ratification of the Bill of Rights, neverhinted at dissent from these views. Jefferson’s 1783 draft of Virginia’s constitution proposedthat the press “shall be subject to no other restraint than liableness to legal prosecution forfalse facts printed and published.” Jefferson singled out “false facts” or “falsehoods” forprosecution, but he implicitly opposed the prosecution of accurate information.Simply put, many states upheld laws that stated freedom of the press was compatible with theprosecution for seditious libel and that even truth was not a valid defense. While no censorshipwould be placed on the citizens, every person was responsible if he attacked the government inspeech or writing, and such actions would lead to a criminal prosecution in a federal court.If criminal prosecution of verbal attacks on government seems to contradict the spirit ofgovernment by consent of the people, you are absolutely correct. However, the prosecution ofseditious libel had its roots in centuries of English common law and, as this law was the basis ofcolonial law, it was entrenched tradition almost everyone in the colonies, including theFramers, instinctively accepted.Fate, however, would not have it remain so. In the years following the ratification of the Bill ofRights, prosecutions for criticism of the government were infrequent, despite a habitually
  20. 20. slanderous press. The federal and state governments refrained from prosecution in manyinstances because they realized such actions could backfire or fail because critics representedpowerful factions and often prominent men. Moreover, people tended to distrust agovernment that imprisons its critics and protects from criticism its officials who, in many cases,had probably deserved it.In 1798, the infamous Sedition Act was passed. It broadened the common-law understanding offreedom of the press and required that criminal intent be shown, it gave the jury the power todecide whether the accused’s statement was in fact libelous, and it admitted truth as adefense. This was a great victory for those urging reform, but glimmerings of an even broader,more libertarian theory were already emerging.The threshold of public tolerance had widened, and the freedom of the press was expanding toinclude the right to censure the government, its officials, and its policies and to publicizeopinions on matters of public concern.A new rationale for the meaning of freedom of speech and the press was expressed in treatiseswritten by George Hay, James Madison, Albert Gallatin, Tunis Wortman, John Thomson, and St.George Tucker. These libertarians rejected Blackstone and common law, contemptuouslydenouncing the idea of no prior restraints but consequent punishment. Recognizing the obviousfact that a law inflicting penalties would have the same effect as a prior restraint, Madisonwrote, “It would seem a mockery to say that no laws shall be passed preventing publicationsfrom being made, but that laws might be passed for punishing them in case they should bemade.”Hay charged that the Sedition Act “appears to be directed against falsehood and malice only; infact…there are many truths, important to society, which are not susceptible of that full, direct,and positive evidence, which alone can be exhibited before a court and a jury.” Gallatin arguedthat if a citizen were prosecuted for his opinion that the Sedition Act was unconstitutional,would not a jury composed of friends of the government find his criticism “ungrounded, falseand scandalous, and its publication malicious? And by what kind of argument or evidence, inthe present temper of parties, could the accused convince them that his opinions were true?”These new libertarians maintained that the truth of opinions could not be proved, and thus,allowing “truth” as a defense of freedom, Thomson declared, made as much sense as allowing ajury to decide on “the most palatable food, agreeable drink, or beautiful color.”The repudiation of conventional ideas struck at the heart of the matter when Wortmanchallenged the concept of such a thing as criminal seditious libel. Wortman concluded that sucha crime could “never be reconciled to the genius and constitution of a RepresentativeCommonwealth,” advocating a truly radical position of absolute freedom of political expression
  21. 21. based upon the belief that a free government cannot be criminally attacked by the opinions ofits citizens.Hay asserted that a citizen should have a right to “say everything which his passions suggest; hemay employ all his time, and all his talents, if he is wicked enough, to do so, in speaking againstthe government matters that are false, scandalous and malicious,” and despite this, he shouldbe “safe within the sanctuary of the press” even if he “condemns the principle of republicaninstitutions…censures the measures of our government, and every department and officerthereof, and ascribes the measures of the former, however salutary, and conduct of the latter,however upright, to the basest motives; even if he ascribes to them measures and acts, whichnever had existence; thus violating at once, every principle of decency and truth.”This novel and democratic theory was much more fitting to a society that looked at governmentas the servant of the people, existing only by their consent and for their benefit, constitutionallylimited, responsible, and elective. Such a government, Thomson wrote, cannot tell a citizen,“You shall not think this or that upon certain subjects; or if you do, it is at your peril.” The crimeof seditious libel implies that the people are inferior to the state, and that their criticisms areunacceptable to their master.An electoral process would be a charade if voters did not have the help of the press inuncovering and publishing past performance records and qualifications. An indispensableelement of the press’s societal role was that of a tribune of the people, sitting in judgment onthe conduct of public officials; an essential function in the intricate system of checks andbalances that exposed mismanagement and corruption and kept those in power accountableand manageable.The press was also intended to be a safeguard of personal liberties. The Massachusettsconstitution asserted that a free press was “essential to the security of freedom in a state”because the existence of various rights and freedoms depended at least in part on the alertnessof the press to injustice, inequalities, and infringements. SUMMARYOur freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental of our natural rights. History showsthat when this right is absent, many others fall simply because people are afraid to speak outagainst the violations or they are squelched and punished. Thus, our freedom to expressdiscontent with and even anger at our government’s actions is vital to the preservation of a freeand open society.
  22. 22. The current plan of attack on our First Amendment rights is being executed in stealth. Whileyou occasionally find bold violations such as people being locked up for criticizing policedepartments or peaceably protesting government wrongs, the broad attack is currently underthe banner of “tolerance”—that is, you shouldn’t be allowed to defame the religion, lifestylechoices, morals, etc., of others. While this may sound noble on its surface, it’s a slippery slope.When we allow a concrete right like the freedom to express our opinions, regardless of whetherthey’re popular or friendly, to be limited by arbitrary decisions, we open the door to furtherarbitrary limitations.Eventually, in the guise of preventing “hate speech,” all manner of communications will beforbidden. Restrictions will undoubtedly find their way into politics, current affairs,jurisprudence, but they could plausibly be expected to stretch into the realms of philosophy,religion, education, economics, civics, and other subjects that build our fundamental character.Through censorship, our opinions and attitudes will become prescribed by the authorities, withdissenting views labeled as heretical and punishable by law. If this happens, we will surely seethe dissolution of the rest of our rights accelerate, unhindered by public scrutiny and outrage.Thus, we must be insistent on not only our right to express our views, but others to do thesame (even if we don’t agree with them), lest we all lose our freedom to speak our minds.Voltaire once said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to sayit.” We would be smart to uphold this ideal.
  23. 23. 5 To Be Armed or Not to Be: The Second Amendment "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." – Thomas JeffersonWe have all heard that an armed population is a shield against tyranny. Despite the fact thatthe Constitution does not authorize militias to wage war against the government—an act oftreason—Americans theoretically have a right to insurrection to correct intolerable andsystematic abuses. As endorsed by some state constitutions, Americans have unsurprisinglyembraced the belief that a right of revolution is a natural right.But does the Second Amendment give individuals the right to own and carry weapons, or doesit restrict these rights only to members of the militia? Is this a protection of personal orcollective rights? According to some “authorities,” this amendment does not broadly grantcitizens the right to keep and bear arms, but instead only allows arms to people who are toserve in a government-regulated militia. If all the amendment secured was the right to be asoldier in the military—a lonely, dangerous affair—could it really be considered one of the“great rights of mankind,” worthy of constitutional protection?Once again, let’s first look at the meanings of the key words of the Second Amendment, theamendment itself, and then let’s take a brief look at the history of this amendment to make itsmeaning crystal clear. THE KEY WORDS OF THE SECOND AMENDMENTMilitiaAn army composed of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers.
  24. 24. NOTE:A militia can be called up by the government to serve full-time during emergencies.SecurityProtection from attack or safety from danger of any kind.BearTo carry something; to move something from place to place.ArmsWeapons of offense, or armor for defense and protection of the body.InfringeTo limit or reduce someone’s legal rights or freedom, whether by intervention or not fulfillingsome duty. THE BILL OF RIGHTS THE SECOND AMENDMENTA well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people tokeep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. THE STORY BEHIND THE SECOND AMENDMENTLike many rights, the American right to have arms was inherited from England. In 1689, Englandadopted its Bill of Rights and endorsed the right of the people to bear arms, but that right wasalready centuries old. In the twelfth century, Henry II had ordered all freemen to have certainarms, and a century later, Henry III obliged all subjects aged fifteen to fifty to possess a weaponother than a knife. Crown officers would occasionally inspect subjects to ensure they wereproperly armed. The reason for this obligation was that England had no regular army or policeforce, so every man was charged with the duty of preserving the public peace by confrontingand capturing suspicious persons and by suppressing riots. In the event of a crime, all men had
  25. 25. to join in the “hue and cry”—calling forth assistance and joining in the pursuit of anyone whowas resisting arrest or escaping from custody.In 1671, Parliament infringed for the first time on the people’s right to arms, passing a statutethat deprived almost all Englishmen of it. Charles II further disarmed his Whig opposition, andin 1686, his successor, James II, incensed Protestants by banning their firearms but leavingCatholics armed. Such royal controls on weapons convinced Englishmen that they must beallowed to own firearms, and as a result, plans were set into motion to secure this right.In the Glorious Revolution of 1689, James II was ousted and the usurper, William of Orange,promised to protect the Protestants’ right to possess firearms. The final version of the law read,“That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their defence suitable to theirConditions, and as allowed by Law.” England was about 98 percent Protestant at this time. Thislaw prevented the king from ever disarming the population again because only Parliamentcould decide what is “allowed by law.” The right to bear arms was resolutely established as onebelonging to individuals.Commonly cited by Americans, Blackstone stated in his Commentaries that the right “to havearms” was indispensable “to protect and maintain inviolate the three great and primary rightsof personal security, personal liberty, and private property.” James Burgh wrote at length aboutthe right of the people to bear arms—more than one hundred pages, to be specific—extollingthe values of an armed population in preference to a standing army. “A militia-man,” he wrote,“is a free citizen; a soldier, a slave for life.” He argued that the ownership of firearms is whatdistinguished the free man from a slave, referring to arms as the “only true badges of liberty.”The Englishman’s right to arms was cherished, and English settlers in America were guaranteedall rights of Englishmen. This included, of course, the laws of the English Bill of Rights, whichprotected the right of Protestants to have weapons for their own defense.Americans came to loathe standing armies. Denouncements of George III were plentiful forusing his military as a part of a plan to reduce the colonies to slavery. Jefferson vilified the kingfor using armed forces to carry out policies and indicted him in the Declaration ofIndependence for having kept “among us in time of peace, standing armies without the consentof our legislatures.” Madison supported national control over state militias as an effectivemethod of minimizing a standing army. George Mason and Jefferson agreed, arguing that well-prepared state militias under federal authority would keep the army small.Thus, our first national constitution, the Articles of Confederation (1777), stated that eachcolony shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, but it did not say anythingspecifically about the individual’s right to be armed for his own defense or other purposes. Anysuch right would have to come from state law, and while several state constitutions stipulated
  26. 26. militias, Pennsylvania’s constitution of 1776 first used the phrase “the right to bear arms”despite the fact that it had no militia. Therefore, it had no military connotation or significance.A year later, Vermont used Pennsylvania’s wording for its constitution. John Adams argued thatthe individual citizen had the right to arms for his defense, and this position was adopted by theMassachusetts constitution of 1780, which guaranteed the right of the people to simply “keepand bear arms” without limiting it to the militia. Virginia’s Declaration of Rights of 1776 spokeonly of having a well-regulated militia in lieu of a standing army, but it is worth considering thatVirginians were to arm themselves and thus provide their own weapons when serving in themilitia. North Carolina similarly defended the right to bear arms for the purpose of defendingthe state.In 1792, Congress enacted the Uniform Militia Act, which called for militias to consist of “everyfree able-bodied male citizen of the respective states” aged eighteen to forty-five, and it statedthat every militiaman should have his own weapons: “That every citizen so enrolled…shall…provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet, belt, two spareflints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-fourcartridges…each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball.”Various amendments were proposed at the Pennsylvania ratifying convention that constituteda bill of rights, and one of the clauses addressed the issue of an individual’s right to have arms:“That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and their own State,or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed fordisarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes committed, or real danger of publicinjury from individuals.” The provision then went on to repudiate standing armies and demandcivil control over the military.Luminaries in Massachusetts were of the same mind. Theodore Sedgwick declared that “anation of freemen who know how to prize liberty and who have arms in their hands” could notbe oppressed. Samuel Adams insisted that the Constitution should explicitly provide that itcould never be interpreted to “prevent the people from keeping their own arms.”Lexicographer Noah Webster agreed, stating that the federal government would be unable toenforce unreasonable laws because the “whole body of the people are armed.” ZachariahJohnson informed the Virginia ratifying convention that the people’s personal rights andfreedoms were safe because they “are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in fullpossession of them.”In 1789, James Madison proposed to the First Congress the amendments that would becomethe Bill of Rights. He included one that was based on his own state’s constitution, and it read asfollows: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed,and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously
  27. 27. scrupulous of being armed shall be compelled to render military service in person.” Madisondid not make the right of bearing arms conditional upon serving in the militia. In his personalletters, Madison referred to his amendments as “guards for private rights.”Similarly revealing is the fact that Madison originally proposed that the amendments beinserted directly into the Constitution at appropriate points. The clause guaranteeing the rightto bear arms was to be placed directly after the guarantee of the writ of habeas corpus and theprohibition of bills of attainder, which granted personal liberties. As history would have it,Roger Sherman opposed the interlineations of the amendments because, he argued, it wouldgive the mistaken impression that the Framers had signed a document that included clauses notof their creation. He and other House members felt the amendments should be lumpedtogether at the end of the document: a proposition that won out, giving us the collective formwe know today.In the Virginia ratifying convention, Patrick Henry proclaimed that the people’s only defenseagainst an army controlled by Congress was the militia. “The great object,” he roared, “is thatevery man be armed…. Every one who is able may have a gun.” At this same ratifyingconvention, George Mason reminded those attending that the British had previously sought todisarm the colonials in an attempt to enslave them. “Who are the militia?” he asked. “Theyconsist now of the whole people.” Jefferson proposed that his state constitution shouldproclaim that “no freeman shall be debarred the use of arms.”Four states that recommended amendments to the Constitution urged one that guaranteed theright of individuals to have arms. New Hampshire was the first to propose such an amendment,and it said: “Congress shall never disarm any Citizen, unless such as are or have been in ActualRebellion.” New York proposed that the people “have a right to keep and bear arms” and that awell-regulated militia consisting of “the body of the people capable of bearing arms” is the“proper” defense of a free state. Rhode Island and North Carolina recommended similaramendments to the Constitution.The right to bear arms can be regulated by public measures as to the kinds of weapons that arelawful and the circumstances under which weapons can be kept, but no law or rule canundermine the right itself. Militias were only possible because of armed populations that hadthe right to have arms. As we have now seen, the right does not depend on the existence ofmilitias. SUMMARYThe rights granted by the Second Amendment have an illustrious history connected with theprotection of freedom and opposition of tyranny and slavery. In today’s society, the SecondAmendment has proven invaluable to citizens for protecting themselves against criminals
  28. 28. (disarming the people is a sure way to invigorate criminals, as they can get weaponsregardless). Regarding its relation to opposition of the government, the Supreme Court said in1951, in Dennis vs. United States, that Congress surely has the power to protect thegovernment from armed rebellion, and that a right to revolution is without force where thegovernment provides a system for peaceful, orderly change.That notwithstanding, should Americans ever find themselves faced with an incorrigiblegovernment of totalitarian oppression, a government that has abandoned the very principlesthis nation was founded upon and that reconstituted a slavery like that of the past, then thepeople have the natural, inalienable right to change the government as they see fit, and thespirit of this amendment clearly applies.
  29. 29. FINALLY! THE SIMPLE SOLUTION TO LEARNING YOUR BILL OF RIGHTS!If you liked this preview, then you’ll love The Know Your Bill of Rights Book: Don’t Lose YourConstitutional Rights—Learn Them!, because that’s where this information came from!Have you ever had trouble understanding the United States Bill of Rights?Have you ever wondered what was really meant by one or more of the ten amendments?Have you ever been unsure as to how these rights apply to modern society?Have you even questioned if the Bill of Rights should still be held as inviolable law, nearly 250years after its writing?Heres the truth: the Bill of Rights is not easy to understand if you just pick it up and give it aread. The eloquent style in which its written can be confusing. The language can causemisunderstandings. Theres a lot of legal terminology thats beyond most of us. Without anunderstanding of the historical background of certain amendments, its impossible to fully
  30. 30. understand their importance and scope. And to top it all off, there are countless politicians andpundits that try to interpret our rights for us and tell us what the Founders meant.But are you comfortable letting crooked politicians decide what your rights are? Or would yourather know and be able to insist on, with certainty, the freedoms our Founders intended foryou, your family, your friends, and your fellow Americans? If youre like millions of otherAmericans, youll choose the latter.Thomas Jefferson said, "Educate and inform the whole mass of the people...They are the onlysure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." He also said, "If a nation expects to beignorant and free... it expects what never was and never will be."Thats why this book was created, and it would make the Founders proud if they were heretoday. This book helps you easily reach a deep understanding of the Bill of Rights by walkingyou through each amendment, clarifying the precise definitions of key words; providing thehistorical context you need to fully grasp and spirit and importance of the amendments; sharingpowerfully insightful quotes on each amendment, straight from the Founders and their peers;supplying you with an extensive glossary of terms so you never get lost in a dictionary orencyclopedia trying to understand what youre reading; and more.The Founders fought tirelessly to guarantee you specific rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit ofhappiness. Dont let two-faced politicians and pundits tell you what your rights are.Click here to buy this book and discover how to unlock your ability to learn and do anything!